LIVINGSTON, NJ — Friends of Livingston resident Jack Nathan, who died unexpectedly on July 3 shortly before his 20th birthday, are continuing his mission to raise funds and awareness for charities that support children and families struggling with mental illness.
With the help of fellow Livingston High School Class of 2018 graduates Matthew Delseni and Brandon Dorflaufer, Nathan launched a clothing brand called “Happy Jack” earlier this year that featured his own artwork and was intended to “serve as a nod to everyone who feels trapped in their mind," according to Nathan’s description.
Immediately after hearing the news of their friend's death, Delseni and Dorflaufer knew they had to keep his legacy alive by continuing the Happy Jack clothing line and donating a portion of all sales toward Nathan’s charity of choice, the Child Mind Institute, and other similar nonprofits.
“Jack was absolutely one in a million,” said Delseni. “There wasn’t anything he wouldn’t do for the people he cared about. He was 100 percent himself at all times and never put up with fakeness.
"Happy Jack was more than just him making and selling T-shirts and hoodies, it was an extension of himself that served as a safe haven and community for kids like him and me who struggled with depression and anxiety to help let them know they are not alone—even when everything makes it feel that way.”
Although most of the existing Happy Jack products have completely sold out in the two weeks since Nathan’s death, Delseni and Dorflaufer will be able to use a portion of the nearly $50,000 that has been raised through a GoFundMe page organized by Nathan’s college friend, Peter Lifvendahl, to produce a new collection with designs that Nathan created but never had the chance to use.
The remaining funds, some of which is being used to assist the family with funeral costs, will be distributed to charities like the Child Mind Institute that deal with mental illness.
“Jack has always been an artistic kid, and everything he drew had a meaning behind it,” said Dorflaufer. “He also believed in helping to fight anxiety and other mental health issues because he suffered from that and doesn’t want others to be afraid to tell anyone they have it. He wanted people to understand that it’s normal and that it’s not a bad thing to have [issues with mental health].
“We spoke to his parents and told them that we wanted to continue on with what Jack was trying to do because he really wanted to make this clothing brand a big thing."
In addition to Nathan’s parents—Livingston residents Bradi Harrison and David Nathan—Delseni and Dorflaufer have also recruited help from his younger sister, Drew, and West Orange resident Shelly Grossman, a family friend who had already been communicating with manufacturers and embroiderers on behalf of Happy Jack.
Dorflaufer explained that the brand was still so new when Nathan died that he never had the opportunity to promote the Happy Jack mission or his first collection as much as he intended. Although Nathan was proud of the existing contract with the Child Mind Institute and the thousands he was able to raise for the organization, Dorflaufer said Nathan was determined to expand to other charities as the brand continued to grow.
It was Nathan’s artistic talent, work ethic and commitment to the cause that not only inspired Delseni and Dorflaufer to continue his legacy, but has also inspired hundreds of community members to contribute.
“[Jack] constantly reminded me how much he basically wanted to challenge the status quo of how one could become successful in such a lucrative space such as art and design, while not losing sight of why he started or who helped him get there,” said Delseni. “For everyone at his table, he made sure everyone ate.
“I firmly believe that the overwhelming amount of support and love towards Happy Jack is a true display of just how many people he really touched and how many lives he made a difference in for the better. And it’s only just the beginning; soon, everyone will know who Jack Nathan is.”
According to his obituary, Nathan’s “warmth and empathy was embraced by everyone who knew him,” and he always left people “feeling good about themselves.”
“He encouraged us all to do precisely what is important to each of us or else we will end up being normal’—and Jack knew that normal is boring,” the obituary reads. “Jack wanted people to own who they are, be free of judgment and live every minute of every day to the fullest. He will be deeply missed.”
Those interested in helping to keep Nathan’s legacy alive are encouraged to donate to the Happy Jack GoFundMe page BY CLICKING HERE.
All Happy Jack products are currently sold out, but a future collection is already in the works, and a memorial “Happy Jack” being designed in his memory is expected to be available for sale over the next week. CLICK HERE to visit the Happy Jack website, where former products are still available for viewing and Nathan explains the purpose behind his brand.
In addition to his parents and his sister, who is a rising senior at Livingston High School, Nathan is also survived by his stepmother Ali Nathan; stepbrother Connor Kogen; and grandparents, Harvey and Nancy Harrison and Lynne and Les Nathan.
Although the family held private services due to the pandemic, many shared their memories of Nathan online through the Bernheim-Apter-Kreitzman Suburban Funeral Chapel. Those memories and the full obituary can be read BY CLICKING HERE.
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